Sunday, 28 May 2017

Half-Viking Scots hero.

Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due. Yesterday around 3pm I ordered three books from Amazon to arrive in time to take on my holidays next month. Imagine my surprise when half an hour ago, they were delivered to my door! That's less than 24 hours! and with free delivery. Amazing. Congratulations to Amazon.co.uk. Somebody in there has a good management strategy going!

What did I order? My holiday reading will include two books from Lee Child, and the latest in the Jimmy Perez series by Ann Cleeves - Cold Earth. Besides these, I shall have several titles on my ipad and will happily peruse the book shelves at our destination. I tried a copy of The Red Tent and never finished it, but now I see it has become a tv serial. Perhaps a second look is in order.

I mustn't take too much reading matter as I have a novel to read and edit. Alba is Mine is now down to 106k word count and I am over the halfway mark, almost two thirds done on a first edit, and I have to say that it is looking good. I suppose re-reading Jack Reacher novels would be good right now in fine tuning how men think - though perhaps not all men think like him! Still, his thought processes might be a tad more in tune with a half-Viking Scots hero than me. 

The local woods were full of garlic flowers a few days ago, billows and cushions of them. Such lovely flowers when viewed close up. The perfume is strong and antiseptic but not unpleasant - I should think it would be used in many medieval potions and lotions.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Buster collar days

I'm not getting any work done. The last two days have been a wash out, workwise, and all because my dog has been to the vet.  Like the last time he went in for an op, they blithely said to pick him up at 4.10pm. We said that would be fine but they could ring at any time and we'd pick him up. He went in at 9am and by 10.40 they were telephoning to say he's awake - come when you like.

We parked behind the surgery and we could hear him when we got out of the car, doing his Huckleberry Hound thing. Long drawn out whoooooooooooooooo, deep breath and then again - whooo-ooo-o-o-o. He was very pleased to see us and quietened at once. He's wearing a Buster collar to prevent him licking and chewing his stitches, of which he has seven, in two differentand no doubt sore places - one to remove a small growth and the other take a skin patch to inestigate an irritating itch he's had for some time which ointments don't seem to help.

We're all far too hot to be comfortable and he has perfected the art of side-swiping me with his Buster collar. I shall be covered in bruises before he stops wearing the wretched thing. Our garden thermometer claimed 31 degrees C this afternoon. We sat in the shade. What on earth are July and August going to be like?

Right now I'm hearing the pathetic little snuffles and moans that indicate he wants a cuddle. When I looked round, he's lying there, staring at me. Got to go and offer comfort...

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Re-tweet groups

Intrigued by a group new to me, I joined and found they re-tweet everyone's posts, which means every post goes to everyone's followers. Great, I thought, more exposure and it probably is. But there is a downside, as I soon found out after only two days. 

Some of the authors I don't know, and consequently I don't know their books, so how do I know what I'm sending out? I don't want to spend time checking everyone's titles but then I don't want to discover down the line that I've retweeted and liked something that will not be appreciated.

Plus which I've noticed already that many of the people are authors I know. A lot of our followers are the same, too. The poor followers must be inundated by tweets about books! So all in all it is probably a good idea, but to be used *sensitively.* Otherwise no one will want to know me. (It certainly did not boost either my sales or my KENP stats over the last two days.)

Starting to dream of holidays in the sun, though to be fair it is warm enough here. Still, a change of surroundings will be welcome. Looks like I'll be taking my re-editing with me. It is turning into more of a re-write and Alba Is Mine (was Banners of Alba) stands at 107k word count now. That's 40k words gone! and mostly every one of them through smartening up the writing rather than cutting out chunks of story.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Fascinating characters

17 May 2017

DARK WHISKY ROAD by Jen Black



Amazon UK £1.20
Amazon US $1.50
Amazon CA n/a

Romance
Victorian
England

“For an ex-duchess, obeying orders proves difficult. But Melanie has little choice. Scarred and cheated out of her widow's entitlement, she accepts a post as housekeeper in remote Gavington House where widowed Lord Jarrow rears his young daughter. He has secrets, and Mel's curiosity will not let her rest until she has discovered what it is that occupies both him and his friend Mangerton. Soon she is embroiled in lying to the Excise men, and wondering if she dare risk falling in love again.”

Maybe Dark Whisky Road is a little melodramatic, and reminiscent of Jane Eyre in places, but what the heck? This is a thoroughly enjoyable true-to-the-genre romance.

I confess I initially selected the book because of the lovely piebald horse on the cover, which shows that cover content is as important as the narrative, but soon found myself engrossed in the struggles and doubts of our wonderful heroine, Melanie Grey. Forced to leave her wealthy life as a duchess, Melanie finds a position as a governess and housekeeper for a widower and his daughter. And so the plot continues from there, leading to the Excise Men and other such nasty baddies.

There are fascinating and well-created characters in this story, most of them with secrets or struggles to overcome, and of course there is an anxious budding of love. We meet the typical-genre necessity of brooding heroes, unsure heroines, dastardly anti-heroes, remote settings and misunderstandings

Jen Black writes with a crisp, refreshing style and elegant descriptions which take her reader right into the scenes she is creating. Her characters are equally well written, Melanie in particular is not the typical feisty beauty who has it all – she is vulnerable has her fears and none of the modern feminist views we often come to expect in novels. In this story she is ordinary – and I very much liked her, and Ms Black, for it!


© Helen Hollick



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Wonderful Viking Romp

Discovering Diamonds


Posted: 15 May 2017 03:49 AM PDT

Amazon.UK £0.99
Amazon US $1.24
Amazon CA n/a

Romance / Fantasy / Adventure

Viking

“Gisla might have won her freedom, but can she stay out of the evil magician’s clutches? There seems nothing that can save her from Karli Olafsson except a handsome stranger who doesn’t believe in magic…. His name is Olli.

This wonderful Viking romp will suit any reader who likes a bit of magic and adventure mixed in with the romance.

Gisla is a woman with determination and courage, and beyond all else is set on avoiding a marriage she does not want, particularly as it is to a less than pleasant magician, Karli Olafsson. Olli Ketilsson, on the other hand, is a young, slightly immature man who has flawed edges. Then there is Flane, Olli’s foster father, who relies on his ship’s crew to aid Gisla when she needs help. The escapes and escapades come at page-turning speed, overdone for real life, but this isn’t meant to be taken seriously as fact, it is a fun, romantic pleasure read and as such, it excels.

Set in the Norse settlement area of the west coast of Scotland, Cumbria in northern England and Dublin, the story gives a believable picture of these rough and unruly times when Pagan ritual ran alongside early Christian.

The Magician’s Bride is a light, easy read absolutely ideal for satisfying e-book entertainment while travelling or lazing in the sun somewhere. For less than $2/£1 or free on Kindle Unlimited how can you go wrong?


© Anne Holt

Friday, 12 May 2017

Alba is Mine

Finished Sleeper's Castle the very next night. Satisfying end, too. Still haven't dissected a page of her writing, though it is still in my mind to do so. Plenty of time to do that today, as I won't be out gardening or too long with the dog walks - the weather has turned grey and damp again. After the brilliant few days we've enjoyed, it is something of a shock.

Editing Banners is a slow process. I wonder if authors who hate editing are the ones who recommend buying editing services so they can enjoy writing while someone else does the hard slog of editing? Coud be true! It is tempting....

I've been thinking of a new title for Banners and am going to work with Alba is Mine for the time being to see how it feels. I'm still debating about cutting the word count down. I'm at 112,000 words now with half the book still to go, so I could end up with a very short story if I go on being as ruthless as I have been. I will need to add in some exposition and can see where character development could be better. Addin in can be as dangerus as cutting out - I could end up with enough words for two 90,000 volumes!




Monday, 8 May 2017

Writing

Reading Sleepers Castle at the moment. I've put it off long enough, refusing to pay the high new publication charges. It has come down in price now, so I succumbed. (Shame on me for refusing to pay for what was probably three years work, or more.) I didn't begin reading right away - I'm one of those idiots who will prolong the delight of gratification if I can! But finally I dived into it yesterday.

It is like so many of her other stories, yet I am still reading at every moment. There is something so utterly easy about Erskine's writing  that makes the pages turn in a regular rhythm. No incongruous word, no jarring sentence, everything in keeping with the time period. The rhythm, the flow of words is so easy that the reader skims across the page taking everything in. Never mind that I have no knowledge of Welsh history and have to look up the locations on Google earth as I'm reading. (So easy on Kindle!) No worries about the story leaping between medieval Wales and Modern Wales, nor about the ability to dream oneself into a different physical setting and be seen there but leave no trace.( Perhaps Ms Erskine has read the Far Memory books by Joan Grant, so popular in the thirties.) Perhaps it would pay me to really examine a page and see how she does it. That will be my homework for the night.

As for my own work, I've whittled Banners down to 113,000 words and still going down. It really is a work in progress!



Friday, 5 May 2017

Language, please!


There is a lot of fun to be had reading websites and when I followed the link to this one I must admit I chuckled. So much so that I thought I might show some of it here. It isn't a new post and there are lots of comments which are informative too. In six years a lot may have changed with regards to some of the words , but it never hurts to keep checking.... 

Oh, hell, since I’m being nitpicky and bitchy already…


(Prefatory note: Again, apologies to Dear Author for stealing their style. I guess I’m in a epistolary mood these days.)
Dear various American authors of historical romances who are trying very, very hard to sound authentically British,
It’s not like I’m the foremost Britpicker of all time. Not even close. But I’ve noticed a distressing trend among your ranks in recent days. I understand that you are probably sick of readers bitching and moaning about how American authors sound too contemporary and too American, so you’ve decided to inject some authentic Britishisms to spruce up the joint. I applaud your efforts. However, allow me to offer the following vocabulary tips:
1. Your Regency- or Victorian-era English aristocrat isn’t going to use the word “git” as a term that means “jackass” or “fuckwit.” Why? Well, partly because it’s a term more closely associated with the working classes, and the class cultures weren’t quite as permeable as they tend to be today. Partly because the etymological roots for “git” are probably Scottish. And lastly, and probably most importantly, because it didn’t become common usage until the 20th century.

There's much more and all the comments to read. Just follow the link: here

Monday, 1 May 2017

Hot weather and editing

We drove out to a country park on the Derwent Reservoir the other day to give ourselves and Tim a change of land and smellscape, and will go back again. It's not too far, but gives the feeling of being out in the country - which it is! Pine trees and heather are so different to the green fields and deciduous trees where we are. I  noticed the low  water level in the reservoir  - and it is so early in the year. Come July there will be water shortages if this weather continues.

In a way I hope it does go on being warm, for it is so nice to be out and not blown away or come home soaked and freezing. (Actually, dog walkers will know that we come home warm and toasty whatever the weather - it is only the first few minutes that are pretty dire. After that, the exercise warms the muscles and its fun to be out.) The other thing I'm thinking is that France will be even warmer by the time we get there. We've experienced occasional weeks there when it is too hot to contemplate moving about too much, and there may be more of them in the future.

As for editing, I'm whipping out words out of Banners at a tremendous rate. The word count now stands at 118,158 which is a vast difference. I hunted out early critiques and reviews and gleaned the following tips:

  • dialogue is repetitious
  • needs paring down
  • used passed instead of past
I had noticed how wordy I was as I was going through! Still, fifteen years ago books tended to be wordier. I'm contemplating a different title and a new cover, but have not settled on anything yet.  

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Editing

On my first run through of Banners I've cut 21,000 words. Yikes! Taht's a lot of words, but I'm not done yet. I'm half way down the list of  "unnecessary words" and taking out almost every one except where the sense is altered. So often removal of the word means nothing is altered, which is the true mark of an amateur writer. I console myself with the thought that I wrote this at least fifteen years ago, maybe even longer than that. At the writers' meeting on Monday I recevied various suggestions - make it two books being the one I've given the most thought. These days the average word count seems to be 80,000-100,000 and at 147,000 Banners was way too long. Still haven't decided, but the way the word count is whittling down, I don't think I will need to divide the book. Other suggestions were to revamp the whole thing - title, cover and interior, so now I'm scratching my head about new titles. Incorporating the words "duke" or "you, me and us" won't quite work for something set in 1034AD. 

My worst fault was adjectives, over describing, and trying to report every little action. If I remember correctly I used "laugh" 141 times, and removed most of them, so  when I read through again I'll find my characters a serious lot who never smile. "Turned" is not on my list of unnecessary words, but I think it should be and I shall certainly add it. Many sentences were pedestrian, often beginning with a pronoun or name and some were so close to repetition that I removed them. Editing teaches an author a lot about writing. Those authors who rely on an editor to smarten their work - do they learn more easily when someone tells them what to add or remove? I suspect that doing it yourself is the more effective process.  


Once I've completed the unneccessary word list, it will be time to read it through and see if I've left any glaring holes which will need a newpiece of writing. I also need to conside if the story hangs together as it should.  I thought I had omitted to mention the king's death, but yesterday found the scene where his death is reported, so that worry has gone. It is such a long time since I worked on this story that it feels quite new and a little unfamiliar. An odd feeling to have when I wrote it!




Friday, 21 April 2017

Life

Editing can get tedious. I know I'm reaching that point because I find all sorts of excuses  not to knuckle down to it - even though I know I'm almost finished Banners. There's no chance of me touching it before I take Tim for a walk, and then I must have a coffee. Then I find I've drifted off onto checking my blog stats, my Kindle stats, and then collecting info before I have a look at the Nielsen website. Doing this, I've discovered that I have the same ISBN for Abduction of the Scots Queen on the Kindle version and the print copy. Not too sure what to do about it. I suppose the easiest thing would be to assign another to the Kindle copy, or to remove it completely. 

I actually received a tweet from Peter May yesterday. I had read The Critic and couldn't see why the last few lines of the book told me no one knew who killed Braucol the puppy and almost killed Enzo MacLeod. "He's still out there." Had my copy a chapter missing? So I tweeted him, and he tells me the answer comes in Book 6.  Nice of him to respond, but I'm not sure I like the ploy - I'd rather have the answers without reading another two books!

The weather this morning was glorious for  our walk.Some of the trees are green now and the grass has been growing for a week or so. Now it is splattered with dandelions and everything looks wonderful. Since I got home the sky has clouded over and the sunshine has disappeared, though we're not quite at the dismal state we were a few days ago - see pic!


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

First re-draft

Pretty soon I shall be at the end of my first re-draft of Banners of Alba. Then it will be time for a read through to see if it makes logical sense and the transitions are smooth. At that point it will probably be time to decide where I am going to make further cuts to bring the story down to 100,000 or less ( if I can). 

Have I begun the story in the best place? 
Have I made motivation clear? 
Have I shown their loves, their hates, their faults? 
Why things happen? (Do I need to do this? should it not be clear without that?)
Does each scene make a point? 
Does something important change? If not, should I cut the scene?
Have I conveyed necessary info in narration?
Can I lose secondary characters?

After all that, I'll need to go through and check for those terrible habit words - the ones that keep cropping up but are really not needed.


Editing is hard work. I can only do it in snatches before my eyelids begin to droop.

Monday, 17 April 2017

How am I doing?

I’ve spent several hours collating stats only to come to the conclusion that I cannot compare like with like due to the many changes Amazon have made in the last few years. 

In 2011 books were sold and we authors received a royalty. In December of that year, the first change appeared - books were either sold or borrowed. By the end of June 2014 we had the introduction of KU/KOLL units. I understood that KU stood for Kindle Unlimited, but I was never sure what KOLL stood for. (Now I know it is Kindle Owners Lending Library)

By July 2015 we saw the introduction of “Net Units Sold or KENP Eead.” Otherwise explained as:  Net Units Sold or Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read. According to Amazon people bought books but never read them, so this was an attempt to pay only on pages read in an effort, so they said, to weed out the dross that was self-published. 

When KU came in, KENP made some kind of sense. Members of KU didn't buy the book, but "borrowed" it, so no royalty accrued to authors. KENP means that for every page read the author is paid a tiny amount, something like 0.0016 of a penny. On a 400 page book that would amount to 64p. It was as much, sometimes more, than the original royalty payment on low-priced fiction. 


So far, KENP Read is still holding. The only way I can see that I might be able to tell if I am doing better or worse is by tracking the money. Is the money that comes to me via KENP pages read better, worse or equivalent to my payments back in 2011? Who knows? Looks like another few hours doing stats. Even then,  other things have moved and changed since those days, so I won’t ever be certain whatever the stats tell me.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Broadchurch 3

It may be that I'm out of step with many, but I am not enamoured of Broadchurch 3. Apart from the police duo and Beth Latimer there isn't a character to really like. They're all slightly odd embittered people, many of them up to suspicious activities. As snippets of how a major incident affects all the people within the community this series is  puzzling. Unless the underlying theme is rape in all its manifestations, the various snippets we get - such as Hardy's daughter's problem - become distractions. Yes, it may be telling that a policeman's daughter is silly enough to make pictures of herself available and the male teenagers seem obsessed with catching porn on their computers - and yes, the policewoman's son is guilty as hell - but is this a reflection on society in general, or the fact that even police personnel don't take note of what their offspring are doing? Computer porn certainly seems rampant in Broadchurch, with Trish's husband and nearly every other male involved to some degree.

 I'm not even sure that Trish the victim is quite what she seems, and there are so many characters who could have been the perpetrator of the crime that it seems silly to try and guess, much less work it out. With so many possibilities, the rug could be pulled from under our feet at any time. We may not have even "met" the rapist. Now that other ladies have come forward with complaints, the rapist may not be a Broadchurch inhabitant at all.

While the acting is very good, the weakness (for me) is the storyline. I think the only way this series can conclude is if the rapist actually confesses and tells all, because there doesn't seem to be any route of discovery otherwise. Almost everything could be a red herring, or it could be a real clue. I think I will be glad to have it all sorted on Monday night.




Monday, 10 April 2017

Writing news

I think I’m missing a trick here, for rarely do I mention my books on my blog. I hope everyone finds the links to the book pages and leave it at that, but maybe I should do more. As I’ve said, I’m re-editing Banners of Alba, which I published ten years ago in the US. It astonishes me to see how wordy I was back then, and I’m desperately trying to edit 147,000 words down to something closer to 100,000. Currently I have 100 pages to go on a first run through and I’ve “lost” 10,000 words. Still room for lots more to go.


I’m experimenting with shorter chapters, too. In many cases I am attempting to keep a chapter to one scene, or two scenes at best and I’d prefer it if the characters remained the same. In order to accomplish this I may need to do some re-jigging, place scenes in a slightly different order, but it will all be for the best. The reason for this? It saves skipping from one POV to another too often

Would the pic on the right make a good new cover?